Friday, May 30, 2014

in her element

In an unexpected turn of events, my older daughter has landed her dream job: volunteering at a horse farm in exchange for riding lessons.

It happened this way. Close to our house is a camp for mentally and physically handicapped people. One of our neighbors volunteers there and asked my daughter if she’d be willing to help out during the Wednesday night equestrian therapy sessions. A couple weeks into her work at the camp, one of the other volunteers suggested that my daughter might want to improve her riding and invited her to come work at her horse farm in exchange for lessons.


The farm is three miles down the road. A couple years ago, we stopped to inquire about lessons, but the cost was so prohibitive that I completely dismissed the idea. But now my daughter is spending her days there, mucking stalls, fetching horses, cleaning hooves, and riding.










She wakes early to care for her chickens and sheep, works all day, comes home and immediately packs her lunch for the next day (she's labeled a shelf in the refrigerator with her name so her father doesn't "accidentally" steal her lunch), does evening chores and some household jobs, eats supper, showers, and sleeps.

I don't know if I've ever seen her more happy.

This same time, years previous: spicy cabbage, the race we saw, a bunch of stuff, on the subject of grade level, showtime!, the saturation point, down to the river to chill, barbecued pork ribs, rhubarb tea and rhubarb tart, and fresh strawberry cream pie.      

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

losing my footing

As I've mentioned before, one of the most frequent questions that homeschoolers get is, But what about socialization? Despite it being a common query, and even though I've been responding to it my whole life, it still catches me off guard every single time. Probably because it feels so irrelevant that I don’t know how to answer it relevantly.

If that makes any sense.

But I’ve been doing a bunch of reading and have learned two things:

1. The socialization question is actually quite relevant, but not in the way that everyone is assuming it is, and,

2. Healthy socialization, studies show, is not acquired in schools.

First, in Free to Learn, Peter Gray explained all about how and why young mammals (a.k.a. children) need to play with other young mammals in order to properly develop. If deprived of that opportunity, the connectors between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain—the areas for impulse control and emotional development—are diminished (176). Assuming that the socialization question stems from the concern that homeschooled children aren’t getting sufficient playtime with other children (because their mothers chain them to the kitchen table, roar), then the socialization question makes sense.

Except it doesn’t. Because in that first sentence about mammals, the key word is “play.” Socialization requires play, and the definition of play is activity that is self-directed and self-initiated with the ability to quit at any time. Except for brief bursts of time on the playground, children in school are doing everything but playing. When looking at socialization through this lens, there is much cause for concern, though not in regards to homeschooled children.

Second, I'm plodding through a brutally dry, research-based book called School Can Wait. It's so chock full of studies that it's barely legible. I'm able to get the drift, more or less, the gist of which is: studies from the 1950s showed that poor, underprivileged children benefited from early interventions so educators/politicians/social workers/whoever decided that all children would benefit from early interventions even though other studies showed that children from average homes were actually hindered by these same interventions. These authors say, based on their studies that I can hardly decipher (sorry to be so nonfactual), that the longer children remain in the home, the better socialized they are. This is the exact opposite of what our culture would have us believe.

The authors also mention an intriguing study in which a woman  named Janet Kastel studied the non-family-oriented Israeli kibbutzim and observed what happens when children are constantly in the presence of peers. In these situations, children are less likely to take initiative and be creative. They hesitate to make independent decisions. As they get older, they become unsure of themselves and don’t know how to act without group approval. These people, Kastel says, make excellent soldiers (32). This same age-regimented system is very similar to our school systems, and it yields similar results. Which should be no surprise as it was the goal of the school system in the first place. (Go on, click the link. It's a doozy.)

Socialization is all about developing a personal identity and interpersonal skills, and becoming a contributing member of society yadda yadda yadda. If, because of a plethora of reasons (the lack of play and the age segregated groups being just two of them), school children are hampered in their socialization, then it is for these children that we ought to be the most concerned. Perhaps it would be more accurate to ask the but-what-about-socialization? question of the children in the school system instead of the homeschoolers.

Yikes. Why do I just feel like I mouthed off to my grandmother?

***

When I talk about homeschooling, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells. I truly don't want to hurt feelings and put up walls. This is Big System I'm railing against, not ordinary moms and pops. Heck, I am an ordinary mom, just muddling through, doing the best I can with what I have.

Yet now, thanks to my reading and ever-growing personal experience, I find myself listing more fully into the homeschooling/alternative education camp. It's getting more difficult to see the value of the other choices. Oh sure, I know lots of great kids in the school system, kids who will turn out better than wonderful. But that in itself is no longer enough to justify the system. It's becoming harder and harder to walk the line between the two worlds. I'm losing my footing.

I believe personal stories, not sermons, are most effective in inspiring change. Yet a pulpit-pounding sermon can be an invigorating wake-up call. I actually really enjoy reading bold tirades. They make me think, and when I’m thinking, I feel more alive. So maybe I need to stop worrying about offending the participants of The Institutionalized Education Big Leagues and start writing for the scrappy bunch of punks playing stick ball in the empty lot down the street (or in the back yard). Maybe it's time I start writing what I want to read.











This same time, years previous: the quotidian (5.27.13), one dead mouse, and just the tip.

Monday, May 26, 2014

the quotidian (5.26.14)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


Morning glory.


He's weaned now, although he still follows her around like her name is Mary.


The disaster that is my porch, thanks to some nesting barn swallows. 
(And no, I do not live in a barn.)


Oops.


Perhaps the best thing out of my kitchen this week. 
Sauteed spinach and onions, cheesy polenta, fried egg, and skillet-charred tomatoes.


Sun-kissed and (sloppily) polished.


This same time, years previous: rosa de jamaica tea, down to the river to play, deviating from my norm, questions and carrots, we love you, Wayne, Aunt Valerie's blueberry barsasparagus, goat cheese, and lemon pasta, and de butchery.

Friday, May 23, 2014

shirley's sugar cookies

I grew up eating sugar cookies. Tender and gently domed, with a thin cap of sugar and one chewy raisin poked into the top, they were lovely.


There’s nothing fancy about them. There’s no browned butter, flecks of citrus, or toasted nuts. No flakes of coconut, swirls of cinnamon, or puddles of chocolate. No icings or liquors or fancy sugars or syrups. There’s no sandwiching, cutting, or fancy rolling. In fact, you might say these cookies are boring. Or, you might say, they are cookies in their most simplified state of cookieness.


Making them, I feel Amish, or at the very least, stolidly Mennonite. I imagine that in those homes, this is the cookie that is always on hand, ready to be packed into a basket for a sick neighbor or doled out to hungry, stub-toed children and visiting ministers. They’re not over-rich so they won’t ruin an appetite, and they’re so basic that there’s nothing to get upset at them for.

‘Course, if you want to get fancy with them, you can brush them with a very thin vanilla glaze and sprinkle with colored sugar. My mom used to do this and it made us kids happy. Colored sugar has that effect on children.


Shirley’s Sugar Cookies
From my mom’s recipe file.

2 sticks butter
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
raisins and sugar, for garnish

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Alternately mix in the dry ingredients with the milk. Cover the dough with plastic and chill for a couple hours.

Spoon the dough onto greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle the cookies with sugar, about a quarter teaspoon per cookie, and bake at 375 degrees until puffy, golden brown around the edges, and no longer wet in the middle. To test them, gently press the top of a cookie with your finger. If it springs back, it’s done. Do not over bake the cookies.

Poke a raisin into the top of each cookie. Nudge it down in pretty far; otherwise, it will fall out/off during handling. Allow the cookies to rest on the tray for a couple minutes to set up. Transfer them to a cooling rack.

Variation: Glazed Sugar Cookies
Omit the raisin and sugar garnish. Mix some confectioner’s sugar with enough milk to make a thin glaze, and add a couple drops of vanilla. Thinly spread the glaze on the cooled cookies. Immediately after glazing (it will dry quickly, so move fast), sprinkle liberally with colored sugar.

This same time, years previous: the basics, more on trash, the reason why, through my daughter's eyes, chocolate-kissed chili, and ranch dressing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

finding my answers

Back when I was writing my home education series, I expressed frustration that the Sunday school class—the one we were doing on education—never actually got around to the topic of learning. If learning is at the heart of education, I asked, then why aren’t we talking about it?

A couple of you recommended Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn. After a bunch of pondering (and trying to scrounge it for free), I ordered it from Amazon. It was the smartest twenty bucks I’ve spent in a long time.


Reading this book, my insides get trembly. I’m all fired up giddy. I have so much pent up energy and harebrained ideas, I can hardly settle down to focus on the actual words in the book because they are SO CRAZY INSPIRING THAT I MUST TYPE IN ALL CAPS AND FLAP. My husband is on pins and needles because he never knows what wacko thing I’m going to say next. I’m poised to scream radical ideas from the mountaintops while he’s frantically yanking me back from the edge and I’m all like, Just let me go, I want to flyyyyy!



So what’s so wonderful about a boring old research-based book?

First, it’s not boring. It’s facts and studies and evidence, but it’s approachable and friendly.

Second, the topic is enormously relevant. Schools are an integral part of our society. Everybody learns.

Third, Gray is an evolutionary developmental psychologist (in other words, he studies child development and education from a Darwinian perspective) who answers the question that no one else will: how do we learn. (Ironically enough, I doubt Gray's ideas are anything our current educational system will want to hear. Which is probably the reason no one is talking about it.)


Here. I’ll toss you some tidbits from my figurative mountaintop. If you’re not interested, duck and run. I hope I don’t squash anyone’s toes.

Peter Gray says:

*The educational system is not democratic. Our government proclaims that everyone is allowed freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and yet we deny that to a large portion of our society, not because they’ve done anything wrong but merely because of their age. Why aren’t children (and their advocates) taking the school system to court?

*Gray equates schools with prisons and then raises the hard question about all the people working in the educational system: “How can I say that these good people—who love children and have poured themselves passionately into the task of trying to help them—are complicit in a system of imprisoning them?” (67). Gray's piercing critique is not an attack on people, but on the society we live in. It is complicated and dicey.

*How do mammals learn? Through play, though Gray doesn’t get around to addressing this directly until page 139. (He spends the first part of the book talking about hunter-gatherer cultures, a progressive school called Sudbury Valley School, and our failing school system.) The more evolved the species, the more playful they are. Humans require incredible amounts of space and time to play in order to be successful. We’re not talking about just toddlers needing tremendous freedom to play, but children up to, oh say, the late teen years, gasp. (Remember that post I did a couple months back on what I will wish I’d done differently? Ha!)

*Play is (and I’m snatching the section titles from pages 141-153) 1) self-chosen and self-directed, 2) motivated by means more than ends, 3) guided by mental rules, 4) imaginative, and 5) conducted in an alert, active, but non-stressed frame of mind. According to this definition, my blog is one hundred percent play.

*There is no way that anybody can learn even a small sliver of all the information that is out there. Don’t spend time trying to get everyone to cover all the same topics: explore, discover passions, be different, play.

*Young children learn by exploring their physical world; older children, ages 11 and up, learn by
exploring other people’s minds. I am seeing this shift with my children. Last night, in addition to our normal suppertime crazy, there was an animated and extended conversation about all things China, tariff, and sanctions. Super fun.


These nuggets are just the tip of the iceberg. The ideas in this book are startlingly radical. It takes a good bit of reading and pondering to wrap my mind around them. There's no way I can do them justice in one little blog post. Even though I do not agree with everything Gray says (and I'm mighty skeptical of some of his claims), his book provides the best answer to my how-we-learn question that I have yet found.

My paradigms are shifting. I have no idea where I'll end up. The only thing I know is, I'm loving the ride.


And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read ... and a fretful husband to soothe.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (5.20.13), the trouble with Mother's Day, the quotidian (5.21.12), the boring blues, and fowl-ness.

Monday, May 19, 2014

the quotidian (5.19.14)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace


A strategic hint from my children.


Irony. 
(The title of the magazine is Faces.)


Morning chores under cover of Mother Nature's invisibility cloak.


The beautiful ordinary.


Rain watching.


Leaf armor.


Rellenitos: better than I remembered.


Fat and fatigued: three weeks to go.


Saturday supper.


He loved this book to the point of actually memorizing parts of it.


Bare feet, sunshine, and green, ahhhh.

This same time, years previous: help, a burger, a play, and some bagels, 'twas an honor, baked brown rice, my favorite things, rhubarb streusel muffins, strawberry spinach salad, caramel cake, cinnamon tea biscuits, and talking points, rained out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

crock pot pulled venison

Before I talk meat...

Your enthusiastic response to my plea for good book suggestions was so encouraging. First thing Saturday morning, I made a list of your recommendations. I researched books on Amazon. Then I headed into town to run errands and stop by the library. But woe—whoa—it was not to be. Our library, it so happens, doesn’t open until noon on Saturdays. I was crushed.

Back home, I logged onto the library website and put entirely too many books on hold. Then I considered my options. A couple of you talked about rereading certain authors. This is not a new idea—I know plenty of people who reread their favorites every couple years—but this time I heard it differently and I was like, Well yeah, I don’t even know what my favorite books are about anymore. So I nabbed Bean Trees off my shelf and dived in. Let the party begin!

***

Now. For the meat.

Breaking news: I finally figured out how to cook venison.


I’m timid around meat—afraid I’ll ruin an expensive cut with my limited know-how—and even though venison isn’t expensive and should therefore be less stressful, it makes me tense up even more because I’ve always thought of it as an inferior product. It has that gamey taste that everyone rolls their eyes about, and you have to know how to mask it just so or you end up with a bunch of tough meat that tastes like road kill.

Not that I’ve ever eaten road kill.

It’s not like anyone is ever out to acquire a nice cut of venison for a cookout, right? I know this because if it were so, they'd sell it in stores. But no. People just happen to have a hunter or two in the house and a freezer full of the stuff and then they are forced to figure out a way to use it up.

The thing is, I've always known venison can be really good. I've known this because people with discerning palates have told me so. I've just never actually experienced it firsthand. So last fall when our neighbors offered us a piece of fresh venison, I, buoyed by an eternal and unfounded optimism, said, Sure, why not. I’d figure something out.

The “piece” of fresh venison ended up being about half a deer. I stared at the pile of deer parts piled on the kitchen table, gulped, and handed my daughter a knife. A few hours later and we had a hefty stash of cubed venison in the freezer. (Thanks to The Google, the bloodier meat got soaked in salt water to remove the gamey taste. It worked.)

Yesterday I thawed three of the packs and turned them into pulled venison and it was fabulous.

Fabulous as in, I am so glad I have more venison in the freezer.

Fabulous as in, my husband said, “No one would ever guess this was venison.”

Fabulous as in, I forgot to photograph it because we were so busy eating.

Fabulous as in, today I made a sandwich with some of the leftovers so I could take a picture, and my children fought over the sandwich.

Never again will I feel shy around venison. Never again. This stuff rocks.


Crock Pot Pulled Venison
Adapted from Jane of Thy Hand Hath Provided.

One reason I so like this recipe is that it uses any size cut of meat: big chunks, little chunks. They all get thrown in the pot together and shredded up at the end.

I only made a couple changes from Jane’s recipe: I added a chipotle pepper (I wish I would've added more), and I deglazed the pan with some broth and didn’t discard any fat (you know how I feel about fat, yum-yum).

5-6 pieces bacon
2 pounds (or a little more) of boneless venison pieces
½ cup chicken broth (or red wine) for deglazing the pan
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups ketchup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Chop the bacon and cook it in a pan with high sides (to avoid splattering grease all over the floors). Remove the bacon bits and set aside.

Rinse the pieces of venison to get rid of any residual blood. Blot dry. Working in batches, brown the pieces of meat in the bacon grease, making sure to get a good brown on both sides. When all the venison is browned, add the broth or wine to the empty, hot pan and stir vigorously, scraping the bottom to get up all the browned bits. Pour the liquid into the crock pot and add the bacon and venison. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.

Turn the crock pot to high and cook for one hour. Reduce to low heat and cook for another 6-7 hours, stirring every couple hours. Right before eating, vigorously shred the meat with two forks. I did this directly in the crock pot, but you can remove the meat and shred it on a cutting board if you prefer.

Serve the pulled venison on hearty buns.

Monday, May 12, 2014

the quotidian (5.12.14)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace




For my lunch: cheesy polenta and kale.



Strawberry daiquiri concentrate: Thank you, Jennifer Jo of 2011!





The half-naked chef: concocting repeat batches of tea from the same mint leaves until the water ran clear.


A case of the post-bath shakes.



At it again: our clothing fashionista. 
(Can you guess what our Sunday night movie was?)


Bowl of pretty. 
(And then they all died.)


Actually getting along.


Spring evening perfection. 


This same time, years previous: maseca cornbread, my first play, margarita cake, lemony spinach and rice salad with dill and feta, hummus, and rhubarb sorbet.

Friday, May 9, 2014

immersion


Did you hear about the new study that explains how our brain cells shrink when we sleep? Once the cells are all shriveled, more fluid squeezes in around the brain raisins and washes all the toxins away. In other words, sleep is important because your brain needs a bath.

(Okay, so the study didn’t use those exact words...)

I believe this explains why we have the mushy, foggy feeling when we wake up from a deep sleep: our brains are filled with water and half drowned. It takes a little for the brain to drip dry and suit up for the day.

Ever since hearing about this study, I’ve felt virtuous about my typical morning wooze because maybe I can’t walk straight but hey, at least my brain is clean.

***

I’ve been kind of going running in the mornings. I say “kind of” because it’s more of a weak trot than a fluid run, I don’t go every day, and I’m not training for a marathon or increasing my distance or doing anything athletic-like. Mostly I try to stay vertical and not get mauled by dogs.

(Seriously, the dogs are getting to be a bit of an issue. Up the dirt road, there’s a new-ish family with three beautiful, young dogs and no fence. The dogs are friendly, I’m pretty sure, but they swarm, charge, and bark with alarming vigor. Yelling at them to go home is useless. I’ve taken to chucking pebbles at them, but I’m afraid that might anger them. This morning the pre-teen boy was outside when the dogs charged. He called them back. I tried to run by. They charged again. So I stopped, hands on hips, and cheerfully said, “I’ll wait till you’re holding them,” and then stood there while he tried to corral them. What's the best course of action in this situation? Talk to the family? Carry pepper spray? Scream bloody murder when they swarm me at six in the morning? It’s putting a real damper on my  runs, which are already  hard enough without adding a herd of dogs to the mix.)

Anyway, to me running feels like I’m giving my entire body—the inside of it, that is—a bath. Every bit of my insides gets oxygenated.  The blood is pumping, the heart is pounding, the lungs are doing their inflate/deflate routine triple time and it’s good. Of course, I really have no idea what’s going on inside my body because I’m no biologist, but that’s what I imagine is happening. (I also told my husband that if I don’t come back some morning, it’s because I either had a heart attack or the dogs won, so come scoop me off the gravel, please.)

***

I have not read a novel, cover-to-cover, in what feels like months. I start books. I tediously pick my way through non-fiction. I read articles and blogs. I read children’s lit and young adult fiction to the kids (and husband). I read emails and junk mail and magazines.

I miss immersing myself in a good book. A really good book. A book I can’t put down. A book that makes me lose sleep. Sinking into a book is a healthy form of escapism, I think. Reading requires a focus that allows me to sink down, down, down into something. I spend so much of my day multitasking and being distracted—partly out of necessity and partly out of habit—that a prolonged focus is more than I want to give. Yet putting everything else aside and plunging into a story is cleansing and rejuvenating, kind of like a deep sleep or a good workout.

In a way, I’m scared of a good book. It will derail me, eat up my time, force me to give up an element of control, and make me live another experience that may feel uncomfortable. And I'm scared of a book not being good enough. The book I read has to be perfect. I don’t want to read something that’s badly written, disappointing, or inane.

So I don't read books. I have become a spoiled, scaredypants, finicky, lazy reader. This embarrasses me. I don’t want to be this way and so ... I’m going to change it. I am going to make myself read one book—a fun book—each month. (Dang, I didn’t know I was going to do that until I wrote it. Shoot. Does that mean I actually have to do this now?)

Help a girlfriend out, will you? Pretty please tell me your true love reads?

My requirements are as follows: pleasurable, interesting, fast-paced (more or less), well-written, no dying children, nothing scary that will give me nightmares, and nothing sad that will depress me. To give you a better idea of which ones have passed muster, here are a few of my faves (* = top picks) (out of sheer laziness, no authors and no links—sorry):

Angela’s Ashes
The Bean Trees
Life of Pi*
Water For Elephants*
To Kill a Mockingbird*
Tiger Mother
Tuesdays With Morie
Poisonwood Bible*
Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?
The Kitchen God’s Wife*
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
The Da Vinci Code
The Brothers K*
A Severe Mercy

And some young adult that I’m crazy about: Wonder*, Okay For Now*****, A Long Walk To Water, Old Yeller, and Where the Lilies Bloom. (Though this isn’t a genre that I generally prefer to read on my own time.)

Hit me up, people. I'm gonna crack me some spines.

This same time, years previous: happy weekending, the family reunion of 2012, "That's the story of mom and us", and warts and all.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

how it is


I’m grumpy. Everything that everyone does is irritating. I want to take issue. I want to pick bones. I want to tell people how wrong they are. I want to fight.

The other evening my husband said, “What is going on. You’ve been mean to me ever since I got home.” Which was interesting because I thought I was being perfectly decent and civilized.

Though it was true that earlier in the day, I had a number of hollering fits at the kids, the kind where a simple, “No you may not slam the door on your brother’s foot,” came out more like a crazy woman-turned-wolf shriek. My sore throat indicated that perhaps I was going a smidge overboard.

So I checked the calendar. Sure enough, it was fourteen days until my period was due. Time to stock up on throat lozenges.

Is it socially acceptable to talk about premenstrual syndrome on the Internets? Is it TMI? Is it only something that we’re allowed to talk about in a coy, flippant, who-gives-a-damn and this-sure-sucks way? Is the truth like body odor: we all have it, we all cover it up, and we all don’t talk about it because it’s just not ... nice?

When Rachel Held Evans came to town, my mom and I went to hear her speak. There was a slide show all set up and the cover photo was of Rachel sitting in a tent in her front yard. The title said something like: A year of Biblical Womanhood, or why I lived in a tent when I had my period.

Mom: “Do people talk about their periods like that?”

Me: “Well, if they don’t, they should. It’s perfectly normal.”

Mom: “Do you talk about it on your blog?”

Me: “I’ve mentioned it in passing, but, um, no. I guess I haven’t really talked about it.”

Which is kind of crazy considering it’s such a part of my life. It (the PMS, not the period) goes like this: exactly (to the day!) fourteen days before my period is due, I start yelling. Seriously, it’s just like that. Partway through the day, it dawns on me that I’ve been yelling an awful lot and, as I described in the beginning of this post, I check the calendar and bingo, whaddaya know, my period is two weeks out. The cloud has fallen. I am now in the throes of PMS.

And to think I used to believe that PMS was an annoying woman, pity-me-I-bleeeeeed cop out.

Ha.

Hahahahahahaha.

Thankfully, the worst part only lasts several days. Then either it lessens or I adapt, I’m not sure which. There’s a name for these two-weeks-of-PMS condition (though I can’t remember what it is). Some women actually take an antidepressant for it. I haven’t, not because I’m opposed to meds, but because I feel like my version is mostly manageable. Knowing there’s a name for erratic behavior is relief in itself. Also, recognizing the traceable patterns helps me prepare and brace myself for the onslaught. I slow down and breathe deep. I try to be sensitive to my tone of voice. I watch my tongue. I only make positive comments on other blogs. I’m careful about what I write about on my blog.

So what do you think? Is PMS a socially unacceptable topic? Would you write about it on your blog? What’s your experience with it?

(Note: if you’re rolling your eyes and scoffing at the screen right now, you better check the calendar. I bet your period’s coming.)

This same time, years previous: so far today, black bean and sweet potato chili, rhubarb cream pie, naked pita chips, and going to work.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

fence

Now that we have two sheepand a few more animal-related ideas brewingwe decided it's high time we get serious about putting in some fence.


We tend to do things backwards around here. It's our way. We fixed up our first house before we owned it. We put a bid on another house before I saw it. We started applying for a year abroad without talking to each other about it first. (In the last case, “we” means “I.”) So it makes perfect sense that we got sheep before we had a place to put them.

There’s actually a good reason for doing things this way. See, I can talk to my husband about new project ideas until I’m blue in the face, but nothing rarely happens until the situation reaches crisis levels. I figured getting the sheep before the fence was an appropriate lighting-a-fire-under-his-butt action. However, when I started talking about a milk cow, my son said, “Mom, that’s a blowtorch, not a fire,” so I backed down. (For now.)



the smokin' (non) ass

Because my daughter is aware that it's her interests that are the main impetus for this fence project, she is over-the-top excited. Anything she can do to hurry the fence into being, she does. The other children tend to work for a bit and then fade off our radar, but this girl plugs away the entire time. (Confession: the fading away characteristic comes from me. My daughter’s stick-with-it, not-afraid-of-hard-work characteristic comes from my husband. The two of them love working together.)






Aside: It used to be that a project like this meant that I was stuck inside to care for four children while my husband did the work by his lonesome. Now it means that he is outside bossing and directing the children while I do my stuff, which in Saturday’s case involved hosting the Greats, cooking, and taking pictures. I love, love, love this stage of the parenting game. It’s so much more profitable and entertaining than sitting slumped on the couch, surrounded by sippy cups, board books, and drooling, fat-cheeked tots while feeling like I’m going to crawl out of my skin if I don’t get out of the house this minute.


A word about the boots. We got her these cowboy boots as a leaving-Guatemala present. She didn’t wear them much in the beginning, but now she wears them every day, all day. From what I’ve heard, once a person learns to appreciate cowboy boots, it’s all they’ll wear for the rest of their life. Is this true? And where do I go to buy cowboy boots? (“Guatemala” is not a viable answer.)


I think they got 19 posts in on Saturday. Unlike cattle ranchers and big-time farmers, we have no equipment save an iron bar, a post-hole digger (the man-powered kind), shovels, and muscles.


It’s slow going, but that’s okay. The joy is in the toil. Right, honey? 

This same time, years previously: the quotidian (5.6.13), rhubarb smothered chicken and chicken with mushrooms, I have nothing to say, the bike question revisited, and baked macaroni and cheese.